Drink flor d’englora roure (Is the ultimate in wine-pretension using all lower case?)
Most people – especially Bulls fans – wrote off Chicago for this game. Then last night, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah played more minutes than most thought were in a game. A little bit of solace came with the news (right before tip-off) that Melo would not be able to go. That was quickly withdraw when one recalled the 20-point shellacking a Meloless NYK put on the defending champs on TNT in Miami. And yet… the Bulls grinded, and I mean GRINDED out a win tonight.
This game had Thibodeau’s trademark stamp hammered all over it. First and foremost was Chicago’s inspired D. And with their tired legs and untimely exits (more on that in a bit), they needed to draw inspiration from the cosmos, or whathaveyou, to will their way through this grind. The Bulls are known for perimeter defense, while this season’s edition of Knicks have been riding a wave of threes and jumpers to league’s best record. That wave largely came crashing down against the wall of the Bulls, as while they put up an admirable 8-23 from the arc (Bulls were 7-13!), overall the Knicks shot a Bull-esque 32%.
And to further burden the Bulls starter-heavy rotation, Taj Gibson got booted on double-techs in the second quarter and Hinrich did not return after the half with an elbow issue. Up until Taj’s dismissal, he was matching up perfectly against Knicks’ three-point assassin, Steve Novak. I do not think I am alone when I write that I thought the Bulls chances of pulling out a win tonight looked like they followed Taj right out the tunnel on his slow walk to the locker room. Yet, they held on. Then Kirk was sidelined, and I do not think I was alone when I was all, “Kirk is sidelined too?! …Cool.”
These road-bumps led to the most-Thibsy part of the night: Sticking to a lineup down the stretch, regardless how much they may be running on fumes. In the fourth (especially, but not exclusively) Joakim Noah looked better suited to be riding in a Hoveround than to be playing center in an NBA contest (11 pts, 3-7 FG, 11 rebs, NINE turnovers). That hardly stopped Thibs, as the most rest Noah had in the fourth is when he leaned against the scorer’s table during a commercial break. It was as if he was being punished for his career performance the night prior. And hell, Noah’s 44 minutes were not even the most on the team and neither were Belinelli’s 45! That honor went to the reigning champ, Luol Deng, logging 46.5 minutes in the second of a back-to-back. But hey, at least he gets to sleep in his own bed tonight – if he does not fall asleep at the wheel on his way home.
It was one ugly (Can we call it Thigly in honor of Thibs?) grind tonight, but the Bulls came out with the W (that is a three game winning streak) to begin a very difficult stretch of mid-December contests. And now the Bulls get two days of rest before having to another back-to-back (but at home!) battle with the LA Clippers and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Play of the Night I love Rasheed Wallace. He is a human cartoon and chalk-full of entertainment. So it was only fitting that he finished off the half with a banked three-pointer. All I could do was laugh. Then Belinelli got the ball with 3+ seconds left, ran down court, and banked his own three. Consecutive banked threes is like a lunar eclipse – if during a lunar eclipse you yell at everyone to drink because that was awesome.